UEFA and CONMEBOL signed a memorandum of understanding in the last quarter of 2021 which will see both continental associations work together to improve the quality of the sport on both continents, starting with the FINALISSIMA: the big match between Euro 2020 winners Italy and Copa America 2020 winners Argentina in June 2021.
They have now announced a referees exchange as one of the areas in which they will be cooperating to benefit the game on both continents.
The exchange program will see both bodies deploy referees to each other’s major tournaments such as the men’s and women’s Copa America and Euro tournaments, and the men’s and women’s UEFA Champions, Europa and Conference Leagues and the Copa Libertadores.
The partnership started off last year with the Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 tournaments where CONMEBOL referee, Argentina’s Fernando Rapallini took charge of a few Euros matches and UEFA referee, Spain’s Jesús Gil Manzano officiated at the same time in a few Copa America matches.
Two CONMEBOL referees, John Ospina from Colombia and Emikar Calderas from Venezuela were present at UEFA’s winter refereeing conference. Likewise, two UEFA referees, João Pinheiro from Portugal and Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi from Italy attended CONMEBOL’s refereeing conference where the partnership was officially announced to referees of both associations and the journalists present.
Robert Rosetti, the chairman of the UEFA referees body explained that the exchanges are in line with values and objectives laid down by both UEFA and CONMEBOL as they work towards developing football on both continents and the world in general.
“We have important objectives as far as refereeing is concerned,” Rosetti said. “It’s very positive to be working together with CONMEBOL, because we are helping to promote a spirit of unity in refereeing. We will be further developing this mutual cooperation within our activities.”
He also called on referees to play their part in safeguarding the image of football by curbing excesses of players and coaches that now plague football matches.
Players now over-react to fouls, mob referees to pressure them into decisions and simulate a lot more to curry favours. These antics have led the game to lose some of its excitement factor which have also seen the average playing time per game cut down to 50 minutes out of 90.
“We’re worried, we don’t like to see these incidents happening,” Rosetti began as he called on referees to be more assertive. “They damage the game and its image.
“Such conduct is not respectful – nor does it show a spirit of fair play when players, for example, try to deceive a referee or put pressure on the referee to caution or dismiss a opponent.
“We don’t want to see this taking place, we can’t accept it. Showing respect on the field is important. Consequently, referees are being asked to be alert and take appropriate firm and consistent measures in such cases. It’s especially important that the referees always act on what they see – not what they hear.”
The video assistant referee (VAR) system was a key element of the UEFA winter refereeing course which happened during the conference.
Rosetti emphasised that VAR is a tool to help referees in their decision-making process. “VAR is important for our game. The aim is not to use the system to excess – the objective is minimum intervention for maximum benefit.
“And we know that there is always scope for improvement, so fine-tuning work is constantly ongoing.”